If you have ever lost control of your bowels, you know how frustrating and embarrassing it can be. The loss of your bowels when you’re unable to control it is called bowel incontinence, which leads to an involuntary passing of stool. You often have very little warning of losing your bowels so if you are out in public it can be very embarrassing, not to mention uncomfortable. Bowel incontinence ranges in severity from slight leakage while passing gas to losing complete control of your bowel movements and when they occur. It can be any part of your body causing the bowel incontinence as you need your anus, rectum, pelvic muscles and nervous system to function normally for holding in stool and controlling your continence. It tends to be more common of adults over the age of 65 and is more common among women. The following will help you find out the common causes and how to properly get treatment for bowel incontinence.
Causes of Bowel Incontinence
There are many different things that can possibly cause the loss of bowel control and bowel incontinence. Possible causes include using laxatives too often, bowel surgery also known as a colectomy, chronic constipation which can weaken the anus muscles and intestines, emotional and psychological issues, lack of sensation of rectal fullness, prostate surgery, rectal surgery, gynecological surgery, injury to anal muscles during childbirth, damage to the nerves or muscles such as from a tumor, trauma or radiation, severe diarrhea, hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse and possible stress from an unfamiliar environment.
Diagnosing Bowel Incontinence
The only symptom of bowel incontinence is losing control of your bowels, which may be just every once in a while or on a daily basis. If this is happening to you on a regular basis, you should consult a doctor for tests and possible treatment options. When you visit your doctor, they will perform a physical exam, mostly paying attention to your rectum and stomach area. Some of the tests that might be performed to determine the cause of bowel incontinence are a barium enema, blood test, electromyography (EMG), stool culture, rectal ultrasound, pelvic ultrasound, anal manometry, x-ray with dye to see how your sphincter contracts, and another x-ray procedure that sees what your bowel does during a bowel movement.
Treating Bowel Incontinence
The treatment for bowel incontinence often starts at home with a change in your diet and certain lifestyle changes. This is usually for bowel issues that stem from your current lifestyle choices. For example, if you have fecal impaction you can prevent it by adding fiber to your diet and drinking plenty of fluids. You may also be asked to change your current diet, get plenty of exercise and do anal and rectal exercises to strengthen them. Other treatments include possible surgery to fix the root of the problem, such as a rectal sphincter repair, gracilis muscle transplant, artificial bowel sphincter, or fecal diversion.